Monday, July 28, 2008

An Apology Haiku

I am so sorry

for when I jumped down your throat.

It was wrong of me.

(I probably need to apologize for the Haiku now since I am no poet!)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Personal Responsibility and Sexual Purity

I recently wrote about my desire to learn from my experience. The subject of sexual purity seems to be a common one lately with Boundless republishing some previous pieces on the subject and Amir and Anakin responding from a male perspective. Because I am a woman, I write the following from a woman’s perspective. I don’t know what the experience of trying to maintain sexual purity is like for a man, but I do know what it is like for a woman. I’m sure that some of what I have to say about a woman’s perspective could also be said about a man’s.

To be naïve or not to be naïve…that is the question.

Is it easier to maintain sexual purity the less you know, or does it take knowledge and wisdom to obey God in the area of sexual purity? If we lived in a world where a Biblical model of sexuality was followed, less knowledge may be beneficial to maintaining sexual purity. But, because we definitely do not live in that world, even sometimes when we are interacting with believers, it is important to be wise and accept the responsibility of maintaining your own sexual purity. No matter how much a man tells you that he admires your sexual purity or commitment to sexual abstinence you cannot assume that he will respect or protect it, even if he is a Christian. That is your responsibility. It is your responsibility to prayerfully consider and set physical limits and stick to them. It is your responsibility to clearly and respectfully communicate those limits to him at the appropriate time. Even after you do these things your responsibility does not end. You need to continue to exercise wisdom and discernment in your interactions. You need to make sure that you are not saying one thing and doing another.

Some things to consider:

  • Does he get angry when you try to set physical limits?
  • Does he respect the limits you set?
  • Does he exercise personal responsibility for his own sexual purity by being willing to be open and tell you if something you do or say is making it more difficult for him, or does he assume that you should know?
  • Do you respect his limits?
  • Does he pressure you to be alone with him before you are comfortable with it?
  • Do you allow too much emotional intimacy too soon?
  • Does he belittle your inexperience (or your resolution to abstain from further sexual activity), equating it with immaturity or frigidity?
  • Does he say or do things that you don’t understand or feel comfortable with and won’t stop or does he get upset or evasive if you question him about it?

    What else do you think is important to consider?


I am a plant killer.

I don't mean to kill them....I just have a black thumb :(

I cringe when someone gives me a plant as a gift because I know that eventually I will kill's what I do.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Diets in the News: Is Low Carb Best?

Believe it or not, it isn’t my goal to turn this blog into a forum about diet and weight. But, sometimes media reports about research related to diet and weight issues make me want to whack my head on the wall. :)

Recently, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine has been in the news. Reports claim that the study demonstrated that low carb diets are better than low fat diets for weight loss. This is a very simplistic interpretation of the results of the study. Full text of the study as published is available from the New England Journal of Medicine in both an HTML version and a PDF version if you want to read it in it’s entirety. Briefly, here are a few issues to keep in mind when you consider the results of this study:

1. The study was funded in part by the Adkins Research Foundation.

2. The vast majority of participants were men, so the results have limited applicability to women, especially since there was a significant interaction between gender and the diet.

3. All of the participants were in the BMI classification of obese, so the results have limited applicability to people looking to loose smaller amounts of weight.

4. There is no control group, so the validity of assuming any outcomes are the result of any of the experimental groups is questionable.

5. After two years and remarkable compliance with the various diet programs the average weight loss in the “best” results group (low carb) was about 12lbs versus about 7lbs for the low fat group. That is about a 4lb difference in two years. I don’t know about you, but my weight can fluctuate by 4lbs in a single day.

6. That means the average weight loss was less than a pound a month. Let me say that again…. average weight loss was less than a pound a month. Even though both the low fat and low carb groups reduced their caloric intake by an average of 500 calories a day. That is an average of 3500 calories a week. There are 3500 calories in a pound. So, if weight loss really is as simple as the “calories in/ calories out” mantra that we hear so frequently shouldn’t the participants have lost an average of 1 lb a week? Hmm….I guess the human body isn’t quite that simple.

7. What I have noted above are only a few of the issues that make the results of this study far less simple than “low carb diets are better”.

Junkfood Science has a good discussion of the study posted if you want to check it out.


I recently read that part of the recovering from a difficult experience is examining your part in what happened and I think that has been true for me as I recover from the incident too. That is part of how we learn and grow. I don’t mean to suggest that someone who has a bad experience always contributes to that experience because certainly bad things happen that we have no part in. But, sometimes our experiences and choices play a part in the bad experience. Please don’t think that I am under the impression that what happened was my fault. I know that my poor choices don’t excuse his choices. I just want to be responsible for my choices and learn from the experience. I plan to write about some of what I have learned about my part in what happened, but today I wanted to write about what God has been showing me about my relationship with Him, which in the end is much more important.

I think sometimes when bad things happen people have a hard time examining their part in what happened. Feelings of guilt and shame can get in the way and make it difficult for us to be honest with ourselves. I think this is especially true when we can’t bring our guilt and shame to God and trust Him with it. It is hard to carry guilt and shame on your own. Sometimes people can’t bear it and so they avoid looking too closely at themselves. When we can’t examine ourselves we cannot grow. When we do not grow we stagnate and make the same mistakes over and over again.

The ability to rest in who you are in the Lord gives you the freedom to grow in other ways too. Trusting God with who you are enough to examine yourself also allows us to better consider things from someone else’s point of view because it makes it safe for us to be wrong. It also makes it safe for us to admit to others that we are wrong and to say that we are sorry. When we see self-awareness, the ability to understand others’ points of view, and the ability to admit being wrong in others we recognize it as maturity. I used to think maturity was what helped you to trust God more but now I think in many ways that it is trusting God with who we are that leads to that maturity.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More on Attraction

In the comments of my last post, blogger Anakin, of Biblical Manhood, posed the following:

I wonder how much family of origin might play in who we are physically attracted to? Do we tend to be attracted to those that remind us of our relatives of the opposite sex?

I thought this question was interesting so I decided to see if I could find any research about it. In my somewhat superficial search I didn’t find much and what I did find was a little contradictory. Also, the two articles I found were not the original research articles, but rather commentary on the research, so I can’t be sure the person writing the commentary accurately reflected the findings.

Sanjay Gupta of Time Magazine commented on a study by McClintock et al., (2002) where they took t-shirts worn by men for 2 days and placed them in a box. They asked single women to smell them and indicate which one they preferred if they had to smell it all the time. They ended up preferring the smell of men who were similar (genetically speaking) to their fathers (so presumably having genetic similarities to themselves), but not too similar.

Staff writers at New Scientist commented on a study by Garver-Apgar et al. (2007) that indicated that genetic differences may be what promotes attraction, at least for women. The researchers analyzed the genes of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) of 48 couples who had been together 2 or more years. The MHC manages how your immune system senses an invader. The researchers asked the couples how responsive and faithful they were toward their partner. The women who had MHCs similar to their partners were more likely to be less sexually responsive to their partners and more attracted to other men. There was no significant relationship between MHC similarity and faithfulness or responsiveness of the men. It was suggested this finding could lead to a genetic test that determines how likely it is that a woman will be faithful to a man.

Anecdotally I have heard people mention this as well. One of my best friends says that she is attracted to taller, burlier men because they remind her of her dad. She theorizes that your dad is your first image of masculinity, so it makes sense that men you are attracted to may share characteristics with him. I know another woman who has a fuller, larger figure who told me that when she and her husband were dating he told her both that he thought she was beautiful and that she reminded him of his mom.

On a side note, I also learned some interesting things about studies of sexual attraction. Psychologists who study attraction distinguish between short-term mating strategies and long-term mating strategies and the studies we commonly hear about (symmetry, waist/hip ratio, etc.) are studies of short-term mating strategies. There is very little research that has been done on long-term mating strategies (DeLamater & Hyde, 2001). One study that examined mate preferences including those related to relationship survival and satisfaction (ie; long-term strategies) among more than 6000 couples (of who 4313 were heterosexual) revealed that most of the participants had strong preferences for partners who are affectionate and compassionate (Howard, Blumenstein, & Schwartz, 1987).

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bodily Stewardship

First I want to say that in no way is this meant to tell anyone what they should find attractive. If you find that you don’t like the way fat makes a woman’s body look rounded or don’t like it’s squishy softness it is totally cool with me. Really, it is. I have mentioned previously that I carry more weight that the average woman, so I also want to make it clear that this isn’t about me either. I, Learner, give everyone reading this permission to find me unattractive (or attractive for that matter… your individual choice) because of my weight (or any other reason for that matter). I think that everyone has preferences, and the “rightness” of those preferences are between them and God. I have preferences and though most of them are not about looks I do have a few appearance related preferences. For example I am not in the least bit attracted to extremely muscled Mr. Universe types that have their muscles so hypertrophic that you can actually see the outline of their rhomboids. But, you know, different strokes for different folks and all that. So, honestly, this is not about any individual’s right to their own opinion about what is attractive. Also I am going to refer to women’s bodies here but really the same thing could also be said if we reverse the sexes.

And even though a post at Amir’s blog really started me thinking about writing this post, and was the origination of the title, it isn’t meant to be about his preferences or thoughts cuz…like I said, he has every right to prefer whatever he wishes. He didn’t say anything you can’t read or hear somewhere else. What this post is about is some common incorrect assumptions in our culture about weight and health. I’m not going to retread the steps I already have taken in this discussion in these two previous posts (part 1, part 2), but I am going to continue from where I left off at that time. So, I suggest you read what I wrote there to get the full picture.

Note: I removed the links to the classical nude paintings from my previous entry about beauty standards because 1. a commenter objected to them, and 2. you would not believe the number of hits I had on them…and the um…searches people used to find them. After a while it kind of creeped me out. If you want to view what I was talking about, an image search of any of the artists I listed will give you the general idea.

Ok, after that extremely long introduction/disclaimer let me get to my two points:

1. Weight does not equal health. I know I covered this in a previous post and said I would not repeat myself but it bears repeating because it is a firmly held though incorrect assumption that you can tell how healthy someone is by what they weigh. Activity level (not just exercise but also just plain old activities like gardening etc) is a far better predictor of overall health than body weight. In fact genetics, gender, race, and socioeconomic status are also much more accurate predictors of health and disease than weight. Ah, you say, but people can’t change their genes, gender, race or socioeconomic status but they can control their weight. But that assumes that everyone is physiologically capable of maintaining a lower weight and that assumption would be false. Which brings me to my second point.

2. You cannot accurately judge the care or degree of stewardship someone takes with their body based on their weight. Much of what determines what someone weighs may not be in their control. Genetics play a large part. A twin study published in 1990 in The New England Journal of Medicine studied 93 pairs of identical twins who were raised in different homes, 154 pairs of identical twins who were raised together, 218 pairs of fraternal twins who were raised in different homes, and 208 pairs of fraternal twins who were raised together. The twins who were identical had almost equal BMIs whether they were raised apart or together. The fraternal twins had more variation in BMI because like most brothers and sisters their genes are not identical. The researchers reported that the results meant that 70 percent of the variation in body weight may be due to genetics.

Conventional wisdom that urges us to “eat less and move more” does not actually result in lasting weight loss for the majority of people. Does it for some? Yes, absolutely it does, but only for a minority. It is well documented that between 80-97% of attempts to loose weight and keep it off for more that 5 years fail. That is because it is not actually all about what you eat. An abundance of studies over the last 50 years have repeatedly demonstrated that fat people normally eat the same as thin people. Regardless of diets people are naturally a wide range of heights and body weights. According to review of 500 studies by Garner and Wooley published in Clinical Psychology Review. "Multiple researchers, using a variety of methodologies, have failed to find any meaningful or replicable differences in the caloric intake or eating patterns of the obese compared to the non-obese to explain obesity".

The author of the same article I linked above in Technology, Science, and Commerce Daily goes on to say:

How Can This Be?
How can this be reconciled with the laws of thermodynamics? The findings seem at odds with what conventional wisdom might suggest to us about eating and weight gain. One of the country's foremost obesity researchers, Jeffrey M. Friedman, M.D., head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at Rockefeller University explains that the commonly-held simplistic belief that obesity is just a matter of eating too much and/or not exercising enough is "at odds with substantial scientific evidence illuminating a precise and powerful biologic system." According to his research and that of numerous others, obesity is the result of differences in biology and metabolism, not behavior, diet or the environment. Through their own volition, people can control their weight long-term to a very small degree. Even voluntary physical exercise has minimal effect, according to Friedman and Glenn Gaesser, PhD., exercise physiologist and obesity researcher at the University of Virginia. So, while better access to foods can account for some of the increases seen in the average height and weight of all people in developed countries -- 7 to 10 pounds in the U.S. since 1980s -- it's genetics and not the environment that accounts for the largest proportion of the differences in size among people, Friedman explains.

"The propensity to obesity is, to a significant extent, genetically determined," he says. Someone genetically predisposed to obesity "will become obese independent of their caloric intake" even when it's restricted to that of thin counterparts. "The heritability of obesity is equivalent to that of height and greater than that of almost every other condition that has been studied," Friedman states.

So, do some fat people eat a lot and not move their bodies? Yes, and some thin people eat a lot and don’t move their bodies either. Do some thin people watch every bite they take and regularly hit the gym? Yes, but so do some fat people. Some women fight tooth and nail to keep their weight down to size 2 and some women have to fight tooth and nail to keep their weight down to a size 20. Are some overweight people poor stewards of their bodies? Yes, but so are some thin people. The bottom line is that everyone who cares for their body by eating moderately and being physically active is not thin, so you can’t accurately judge someone’s bodily stewardship by their weight.

In summary:
1. Does this mean you should be attracted to a fat person? No…you are free to not be attracted to a fat person, just don’t judge someone’s health or the care they take of their body based on their weight.

2. Does it mean you should eat nothing but twinkies and sit on your rear all day because there’s no point in not doing that if you’ll never be a size 2 (or a size 20)? Of course not! Activity is very important for your health and you’d probably feel like crap on an all twinkies diet.

Ok, I lied, I actually have another point. If you are someone who worries that you will never find someone to love you because of something about your appearance I hope that you will not worry but instead make the most you can of what you have and be confident in yourself and in what you have to offer. Even if fewer persons of the opposite sex are attracted to you, stop and look around you….people who are fat, skinny, short, tall, bald, hairy, flat chested, boob-tacular, freckled, pale etc. etc. have people fall in love with them and marry them every day. And you know what? Your value is determined by what God thinks of you, not what some man (or woman) thinks. And God thinks you are lovable and of highest value regardless of how you look. Remember that, and trust HIM with who you are.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

There's something in the air....

I usually get a little blue in the early summer because the students are gone and things at work are just a bit dull. But, today one could walk down the hallway where I work and notice a very distinctive smell. It is a smell that repulses most people but I find strangely positive. What is the smell you ask? Why, it is a chemical called formalin (AKA formaldehyde) and to me it signals the return of our students. Formalin is used to preserve cadaver specimens which our students dissect as part of a human anatomy course. If you haven't smelled formalin or formaldehyde before I don't think there is a way to really describe the odor. In the cafeteria, in the elevator, walking down the hallway...the smell is pervasive. What makes it especially unpleasant is that the smell tends to cling to your clothes and hair and your hands, even though we all wear gloves and wash repeatedly. Ahhh...the smells of summer!